Schools may be allowed share PPS numbers about children applying for admission places

Schools may be allowed share PPS numbers and other information about children applying for admission places, under proposals by Education Minister Richard Bruton.

He is to introduce the stipulation today in an amendment to his School Admissions Bill at committee stage. A list of planned changes would also see the children and grandchildren of past pupils entitled to priority for up to 25% of places, and a new appeals arrangement where schools refuse to enrol a pupil.

These are aimed at speeding up the process and reducing the possibility of cases being referred to courts. The bill, published last July, already put forward a proposal that the minister could direct school boards in a local area to cooperate with each other in relation to admissions.

However, an additional legal power, to be proposed by Mr Bruton, would permit schools to share certain information about children who have been the subject of applications for enrolment “to facilitate the efficient admission of students”.

The move is seen as a response to concerns, particularly from second-level schools in larger towns and cities which often have problems when parents are offered places at more than one school for their child.

This can mean other hopefuls are left waiting through the summer until the parents of the student notify the schools where they are not taking up an offer.

Mr Bruton is proposing that a patron or another school could be given the lists of students who have applied to one school, those offered places, and those who have accepted such offers. Those lists could include not just the name and address, but also their date of birth and public service number, according to the amendment going before TDs today.

The minister is also proposing to set down in law that waiting lists for school admissions could not be used to select or to rank pupils for entry from five years after the act comes into effect.

As previously flagged, Mr Bruton is including a stipulation that up to 25% of places for new entrants in a school could be held for students whose parents had previously attended. But the 25% figure could also now include children whose grandparents are past pupils.

Setting aside places for children of past pupils was opposed by a number of groups which attended hearings on the bill with the committee since last autumn. However, the committee did not recommend any reduced limit in its report on the bill to Mr Bruton which it published last week.

The committee report called for an end to the baptism barrier that exempts Christian schools from equality law and allows them to exclude children not of the same faith if there are insufficient places for all children applying to enrol.

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